Monday, June 21, 2010

Because "very small" didn't sound right.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics. These are the "finished" words. The other side of the page has even more scratch-outs.

Sold at Sotheby's on Friday for $1.2 million.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

All out of proportion

Live sports, broadcast in HD, seen on a properly configured HD TV, is a visual treat. Watching commercials dropped into that broadcast: much less so. Last night watching the Yankees game I saw, in one commercial pod, the following:

--a spot letterboxed vertically and horizontally

--a spot stretched to fit 16:9

--a spot in 4:3 with vertical letterboxing

While TV manufacturers are busy hawking the next technology--3D--advertisers and their agencies and production partners are still coping with HD and widescreen.

Like Afghanistan, there are no good options, only bad and more bad. Consider: if you finish your spot in cinema (widescreen) 16:9, viewers with regular (4:3) TVs will see it horizontally letterboxed. If you finish it 4:3, viewers with widescreen TVs will either see it vertically letterboxed or stretched like Super Putty to fit the screen.

Wait, you say. Widescreen is here to stay, and so is HD. Maybe, but remember: that big beautiful 1080p screen needs to be properly configured and provided with HD signal. The first is beyond most people's capability and the second is rarer than you think. Why do you suppose all those TVs in bars, gyms, banks and lobbies have their Fox talking heads all looking unnaturally wide (and Rush even more so)? Because no one set the controls. And all those Law & Order episodes cha-chunging away till for the rest of time? Low-def, baby.

The interesting thing (to me at least) is: no one outside the business even notices. First, because it's a commercial break and who cares, and second, because in a world of Flips, grainy videos and 2-inch screens, production issues don't matter much.

But take it from me: if you're selling a weight-loss product, you do not want your client seeing her commercial with everyone in it looking like a double-wide trailer because it's been stretched to fit the screen.

Monday, June 07, 2010

No thanks, I’d rather watch grainy video of oil gushing into the Gulf all day long.

I thought my last post would also be my last word on BP’s benighted ad campaign, because it’s hard to have an original take on something that every last man, woman and child on earth think is stupid.

So instead, to take my mind off all the unpleasantness, I YouTubed up an instructional video on fly tying. I’d be walled off from all the noise, in my own fly fishing geekdom, and I’d be safe.

And then I saw this:

Never mind how frikkin' ridiculous this is. If I wanted to watch BP CEO Tony Hayward lying through his teeth, I don't need to go on BP's YouTube site. I can watch the same clip, with better commentary, on Jon Stewart.

No, my question is: How did they find me? And why? It’s like one their tar balls washing up in an Indiana cornfield instead of a Gulf Coast beach. Does BP have so much money to throw at this ad campaign that they can afford to target the most obscure reaches of the internet? Is this ad also appearing on sex dungeon sites? Or Elvis impersonator sites?

BP: go aggregate Liz Cheney’s eyeballs. Leave mine alone!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I hate BP. But I hate myself more.

In an early post on this blog, I expressed some qualified admiration for the nuanced way BP approached the energy/environment discussion when its corporate campaign launched around 4 years ago.

Reading that post now, with BP trying to suppress pictures of dead animals and denying the sub-surface plumes clearly visible from space, I want to throw up.

But it's not about me and my gullibility, is it? Let's shift the discussion and think about someone with much bigger problems than mine. Let's think about the person who has to write the ads running now.

Let's imagine that it's a guy (for no good reason other than to pick a pronoun).

He's in his mid-30s, a Group Creative Director somewhere (they wouldn't give this to a junior creative). He lives in Park Slope. He and his wife belong to a food cooperative. The only car in his life is a hybrid and has a Zip logo on it.

He thinks BP is a bunch of lying, Earth-despoiling wankers. But he needs this job.

Painfully, letter by gut-wrenching letter, he types out the words

We will get it done. We will make this right.

He stares at what he's written. He looks at his fingers, at the keyboard. He is a marionette. He is a cockroach. He is only following orders.

His art director pops his head in. "Make sure it fits on 2 lines" he says.